Add some mystery and excitement to your spring with a curated list of bona fide thrillers from our expert on the subject, Jon Land.
David Baldacci’s wondrously crafted Redemption (Grand Central) features the return of one of the most remarkable heroes in all of thriller fiction with Amos Decker, also known as the Memory Man. This former football player’s career abruptly ended with a head injury. This traumatic event left him with an interesting sensory asset, total and permanent recall of everything he experiences.
And he’s going to need this particular skill more than ever in sorting through the morass of a past case he investigated as an FBI special agent. A chance encounter with the first murderer Decker ever arrested leaves him doubting his own conclusions. The recently released Meryl Hawkins continues to insist he’s innocent, and this time Decker believes him, especially when he finds that the old case is intrinsically related to one he’s investigating now.
Standing in for Lincoln Rhyme this time out is Colter Shaw, an obsessive loner and wanderer who puts his unique skillset to use traveling the country to solve crimes for the rewards offered. An expert tracker who pays attention to even the slightest detail, Shaw was born to off-the-grid parents, crippling to him to a life as a social pariah. But he doesn’t have to be popular or well-liked to solve the riddle of a high-stakes videogame being played out for real. Silicon Valley is portrayed in a way we’ve never seen it before, one that might make you think twice about switching on your Xbox or PlayStation.
Deaver’s pacing is pitch-perfect and has created in Shaw a classic anti-hero outcast at home with his own thoughts, but little else. Extraordinary in all respects.
Liv Constantine’s elegantly constructed The Last Time I Saw You (Harper) reminded me of Carla Neggers with a bit of Donna Tartt thrown in for good measure. That’s an unusual comparison, and an ambitious one, but Constantine proves more than equal to the task.
Returning home for the funeral of her murdered mother, Kate English is reunited with old friend Blaire Barrington from whom she’s long been estranged. The reunion leads them to bury the hatchet but, before you know it, Blaire is once again asserting her dominance. She’s a successful mystery writer who seems determined to play the femme fatale role in a story she’s living instead of writing. All of this drama while Kate comes to believe she’s being stalked by her mother’s killer.
The result is a terrific tale of brooding noir that carries echoes of Patricia Highsmith and her classic Ripley series, as complex as it is ambitious.
Doug Lyle’s criminally entertaining Sunshine State (Oceanview) welcomes back his investigative team of Jake Longly and Nicole Jamison with a heavier touch and darker tone he handles with wit and aplomb.
As Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen have aptly shown, Florida seems to be where all the country’s weirdness calls home. Good thing Longly and Jamison call it home too and they’re going to need all their sleuthing skills when they find themselves in a small coastal town riddled by murders. The fact that Billy Wayne has already confessed to the crimes puts a crimp in their efforts, until his story starts to unravel and the stalwart team realizes a killer might still be out there, about to claim his, or her, next victim.
Sunshine State sizzles with just the right mix of action and mystery, a rollicking roller-coaster ride on a track lined with thrills and spills.
In fact, the opening harkens back to an early Reacher entry, when Dryden thwarts an attempted kidnapping that’s actually rooted in the past, his childhood specifically. That sets the stage for the book proceeding along duel timelines that both flesh out Dryden’s youth and establish why he, and fellow 12-year-old at the time Danica Ellis, both suddenly find themselves targets of shadowy operators. The long-buried secrets at the book’s heart raise it to a whole other level mastered by the likes of John Hart and James Lee Burke.
Dark Site is thriller writing of the highest order, a sumptuous slugfest of both brains and brawn that continues to establish Lee as a writer and storyteller to be reckoned with.
That’s where Dr. Julie Richmond has gone in search of meaning and fulfillment to make up for a life too easily and richly led, landing smack dab in the midst of a civil war. She’s barely got her feet on the ground when she’s kidnapped by a Lord of the Flies-like menagerie of miniature soldiers whose assault rifles pack no less of a punch. As the resulting diplomatic crisis escalates, both friend and foe alike swing into action, while Julie comes to shattering realizations about herself and the world around her.
The sparsely simple prose evokes a thriller-esque take on Ernest Hemingway, especially combined with the kind of setting Papa was known for taking on. A thinking man’s thriller that makes Fine the Ocean State’s own John Le Carré.
This mix of greatness is especially evident in the plotting, which focuses on a recently discovered journal that contains secrets capable of toppling Western civilization. It’s up to rare book dealer Carys Jones, in the best tradition of The Da Vinci Code, to weave her way through a clue-laden, international obstacle course in search of the elusive truth behind secrets buried for 1,500 years.
Jones (no relation to Indiana!) makes for a great hero, passionate about her work and willing to stop at nothing to preserve both the past and present in order to secure the future, while finding herself a part of the kind of history she only knew before via books. Richly drawn on a bigger-than-life canvas, The Ghost Manuscript paints an energetic and vibrant picture.